Originally created 11/24/03

Atlanta airport, Georgia roadways expecting typical holiday rush



ATLANTA -- With tightened security measures now familiar to most fliers, this may be the most routine Thanksgiving travel week since 2000.

In other words, it will be crowded and stressful.

Airlines advise passengers to arrive at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at least 90 minutes before their flight on the peak days of Tuesday, Wednesday and next Sunday.

"Anticipate possible slowdowns caused by heavy traffic, crowded airport parking lots and busy ticket counters and security checkpoints," warns AirTran Airways' Web site.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is typically the busiest day of the year at the world's busiest passenger airport. The airport expects 249,062 people to pass through Hartsfield-Jackson that day, versus a year-to-date daily average of 216,000.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, which has the most flights out of Hartsfield-Jackson, says it expects traffic to be on a par with last year.

Willie Williams, federal security director for Hartsfield-Jackson, said the Transportation Security Administration would have security checkpoints fully staffed. Screeners cannot take time off starting the Monday before Thanksgiving until the Wednesday after, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Hartsfield-Jackson cut 263 full-time screener jobs last summer, amid budget woes at the agency. The airport offers two online services for keeping track of flights and security checkpoint wait times.

Although most holiday travelers fly on Wednesday, AirTran Airways has seen an increase in people flying Thanksgiving morning. Many people work longer hours these days, and it can be tough to get home on Wednesday, pack and get to the airport, said AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson.

Still, the airport expects only 130,000 travelers on Thanksgiving, little more than half the Sunday total.

On roadways, the state patrol predicts that 21 people will die during the Thanksgiving holiday period from 6 p.m. Wednesday through midnight Nov. 30. Last year, 19 people died on Georgia's roadways during the holiday period, eight of whom were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.

"Thanksgiving is a joyous holiday for many Americans, but it's also traditionally one of the deadliest on the roadways," Lynne Goughler, vice president of public policy for the national chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told The Brunswick News. "Impaired driving and lack of safety belt usage are the leading killers in automobile crashes, especially during the holiday season."

Law enforcement officers around the state will crack down on motorists not using seat belts and child-restaint seats as part of a nationwide "Click It or Ticket" campaign that began last Monday and continues through Nov. 30.

"Each holiday period, roughly one half of the traffic deaths recorded involve someone who is not wearing a seat belt," said Col. George Ellis, state patrol commander.

On the Net:

Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport: www.atlanta-airport.com